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One of the major things gamers have been requesting from Nintendo is to abolish the practice of region locking games, a practice that prevents gamers from other regions from buying a game outside of their region and being able to play it on their system. Sony has already championed the cause, listening to consumers and doing away with region-locking for their systems. Nintendo, alternatively, still has the age-old practice in place and has never shied away from region-locking. However, that may be changing soon.
Eurogamer picked up word from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata from a questions and answers session Nintendo had with investors, where the president addressed the situation of region locking.
According to Iwata...
“The game business has a history of taking a very long time with localisation among other things," ..."such as having to deal with various issues of marketing in each particular country, or games that have made use of licensed content that did not apply globally.
Previously Nintendo of America had mentioned last year that the whole point of region-locking was multi-fold, one reason that included parental controls. It is understandable that different regions have different ratings, and content from one country may not be suitable in another country (e.g., Bravely Default's costumes). According to NOA...
"Nintendo has no plans to remove region locking from our systems. By taking this approach, Nintendo is able to include parental controls and ensure compliance with regional standards and rating systems."
The “regional standards” is not lost on Iwata. He understands that some content in games is also licensed property of artists or other institutions that only apply within that region, as quoted above. Hence, it's sometimes why games have to go through a pretty big overhaul before making it Stateside or land in Europe.
Nevertheless, Iwata also understands that there may be benefits to abolishing the practice of region-locking games, stating...
"As for what should be done going forward, if unlocked for the benefit of the customers, there may also be a benefit for us."
Consumer benefit means being able to buy imports from various regions or potentially playing with other players the world around in a far easier and much more streamlined fashion. On the company side, it could mean that Nintendo could reap the benefits of cross-regional sales and additional SKUs being moved that would have otherwise been restricted to the region they were sold in.
As for when the practice of region-locking might be coming to an end? Don't hold your breath or expect anything big to happen anytime soon. Iwata stated...
"Unlocking would require various problems to be solved, so while I can't say today whether or not we intend to unlock, we realise that it is one thing that we must consider looking to the future."
I guess we'll just have to wait and see how long it'll be before the Big 'N' picks up the shovel and buries the old tradition of region-locking their physical games.